Friday, March 25, 2011

Got a Pot Belly? Stubborn Belly Fat? Unhandy Love Handles? Massage Them Away!

"Massage away your pot belly!" Sounds hillarious, doesn't it. Well, a small study (Rahimi. 2011) coming from scientists from the University of Mashhad in Iran suggests that massaging your love handles could actually facilitate localized fatloss.

In their study, Rahimi and Javahery put 16 healthy - I quote - "non-sportsperson male students"  ;-), aged 20-27y on a 5x a week massage regimen (15-20 min) that had, if not outstanding, then at least statistically significant results:
The results of correlated t test show that the mean values of skin fold fat of the stomach are of the participants before and after the massage program was 36.81 and 36.12 respectively, which shows a significant decrease after 30 sessions of massage (p=0.036).
- 2% skin fold: You are not impressed? Well, me neither. Although the increased blood flow to the subcutaneous fat pads may, as the scientists speculate, have a beneficial effect on local fat mobilization, I would suggest you better spend the time in the gym or doing sprints on the track to not only mobilize, but also oxidize these stubborn and unaesthetic fat pads and simultaneously improve your cardiac and metabolic health.

On a side note: If there is anything significant to learn from this study, it is that sometimes, even scientists try to trick you into believing that what they found (similar to what supplement companies sell) is a great thing. Look at the following graph from the study:
Figure 1: pretest (1) and posttest (2) mean values of the subcutaneous fat of the stomach area of the participants (Rahimi. 2011)
Just by selecting a very narrow scaling on the Y-axis of the graph, the scientist create the impression that their massage therapy was a huge success. If, however, you take a closer look, you inevitably notice the figures and the bluff is exposed. Remember tricks like that, when you look at the colorful graphs in supplement ads all over the Internet. Or as Churchill is said to have put it (in fact this is another myth) “Never trust any statistics that you didn’t forge yourself.”